Israel's Machiavellian Gambit
Israel pulls out in order to better remain. An analysis by Marius Campean and Jérôme Drevon via L'Orient-Le Jour.
For the first time since the 1967 War, the Israeli army has completely evaculated Palestinian territory. The government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon completed its disengagement from Gaza on September 12. Even if the Gaza Strip is for the moment isolated from the rest of the world, the political progress which the evacuation represents is undeniable. But a closer look reveals that the Israeli departure from Gaza, which received a great deal of media attention, was accompanied by several advances in the occupation of the West Bank. These advances are covered by silence.
By studying the new, massive confiscations of Palestinian lands around Jerusalem, the advancement of the Separation Wall and the flow of new colonists towards the West Bank, one must come to realize that Israeli zeal is merely dust in the eyes of the world. It appears that Israel has pulled out of Gaza in order to reinforce its presence on the West Bank.
The Israeli army and the 8,000 evacuated colonists who populated this narrow strip of land –5% of occupied territory– hardly make a dent compared to 450,000 colonists who live on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. A number which never ceases to increase: this year along more than 12,000 new colonists have moved to the Occupied Territories.
Neither the annexation of East Jerusalem nor the de facto shift in the borders separating the State of Israel from the Palestinians by means of the continuing expansion of colonies on the Palestinian side of the Green Line have been recognized by the international community. However, on the pretext of security concerns, Israel has been conducting a policy of colonization since 1967 on the West Bank and of forced isolation of Jerusalem from the rest of the Occupied Territories. The new Separation Wall that Israel has been building over the last three years has confirmed the results of this territorial policy.
The sprawling settlement blocks on the West Bank have already been considered as “immutable new realities” during the last peace negotiations at Camp David and at Taba in 2000-2001. George W. Bush treats the blocks as such in his recent correspondence with Ariel Sharon. The ongoing policy of colonization has not delayed in bearing it fruits.
As to East Jerusalem, it has found itself isolated over the years, surrounded by a dozen or so Israeli colonies. In addition to the colonies, there is the impact of the Separation Wall: once it is cut off on all sides from the rest of the West Bank, it is inevitable that the city will end up on the Israeli side during future final negotiations –forced legalization following illegal annexation.
It is precisely this policy of fait accompli concerning Jerusalemite land and the colonies that has been unrelentingly deployed in parallel with the evacuation from Gaza. The principal instrument of this intrepid political undertaking is most assuredly the Separation Wall.
Had the wall had followed the Green Line —the Arab-Israeli 1967 armistice line— this enormous security enterprise would have been defensible before the law and in the court of international opinion. But a Security Wall around the Gaza Strip is never mentioned.
Effectively, whether or not a wall like that of Berlin, Korea or China is justifiable in the absolute in the 21st century, Israel has the right to make its frontiers impenetrable. Israel could even conclude that the only way to stop a few dozen suicide bombers from the West Bank is this form of collective punishment in which millions of Palestinians are interned in their territories. Effectively, sensitized by the televised images of busses, cafés and shopping centers bloodied by the 2001-2003 bombings, the Western world could come to the following conclusion: as long as this type of violence against Israeli civilians continues, the whole of Palestinian society must be put under quarantine —in much the same way as a country experiencing an outbreak of mad cow disease is isolated from neighboring markets until the disease disappears.
But the wall is far from following the Green Line. In fact, the difference between the 300 km of the Green Line and the nearly 670 km of the Security Wall can be calculated by the incursions made into Palestinian territory. The wall takes a deep bite out of 22% of Palestine which is rightfully Palestinian and transfers a tenth of that land to the Israeli side. This is to integrate the sprawling settlement blocks of Ariel, Gush Etzion and Maale Adumim, built on Palestinian land, into Israel.
In Israel, the needs of security are presumably do not include recognition of Palestinian desires, particularly those of mobility and territorial contiguity inside the lands which are left to them. In a paradigm where Israeli military force exceeds not only that of the Palestinians but that of the Arabs countries of the Middle East combined, the strong have ignored the needs of the week for some time now and will continue to do so into the future.
Unilateral action —such as the annexation of East Jerusalem after the 1967 War— has become the rule of the game despite the formal protest of other countries (although with the tacit approval of the United States). It is a cynic’s game, practiced by a series of Israeli governments. Since 1973, there has not been a single prime minister who has not allowed, even encouraged, the expansion of Israeli colonies on the West Bank, especially around Jerusalem.
Let us take the example of Maale Adumim, an Israeli colony situated 15 km east of the Green Line separating West Jerusalem (Israeli) from East Jerusalem. The colony is in the heart of the West Bank, because between Jerusalem and the Jordanian frontier, there is only 30 km of Palestinian territory. Israel has unilaterally decided to keep possession of it even in the possibility of a future Palestinian State. Prime Minister Sharon has never missed an occasion to reiterate this, and it seems confirmed in his exchange of letters with President Bush in 2004.
In order to keep this colony, Israel plans to extend the Separation Wall to surround Maale Adumim, leaving only a micro-corridor of 15 km for the passage from north to south within the West Bank. In fact, when the wall is finished in this area, East Jerusalem and more than 150 km2 of Palestinian territory will be entirely enclosed within Israel.
Besides the fact that a future Palestinian State would not be viable in conditions of territorial contiguity gravely reduced by the Security Wall, the price paid by the Palestinians is more than immediate: the wall separates Jerusalemite villages from their arable land, workers from their jobs, students from their schools, traders from their markets and pilgrims their from holy sites. Paradoxically, it is easier for an Argentinean Christian to go to pray at the Holy Sepulcher or for an Indonesian Muslim to pray in the Esplanade of the Mosques than for a Palestinian who lives 15 km away to enter the center of Jerusalem’s Old City.
When one considers the destructive effect of the Israeli occupation on every facet of Palestinian life, one must ask if the Israelis seriously intend to conclude a viable peace or whether they intend to maintain the status quo of infinite occupation –or until “Palestine becomes Finland”, in the words of Dov Weinglass, Ariel Sharon's foreign policy advisor.
This past August 18th, Israel concluded its evacuation of 65 km2 of colonies in Gaza in the thrall of a global public touched by the tears of Israeli children, who refused to yield the land taken by their parents to their legitimate Palestinian owners. The same day, Israeli authorities ordered the expropriation of 67 km2 of Palestinian land, two square kilometers more than it evacuated, to complete the Security Wall around Maale Adumim, with the declared intention of linking Jerusalem to a new colony. Thus, any future Palestinian claim to a portion of the Holy City will be rendered null and void by its total encirclement.
Although it has withdrawn from Gaza, Israel has not ceased to extend itself into the West Bank while annexing East Jerusalem and another 10 per cent of Palestinian territory conquered in 1967. One cannot help but ask, outside the anti-terrorist rhetoric which has developed since September 11, if the Jewish State is not in the process of Machiavellian expansion of its territory to then wash its hands by abandoning the Palestinians who live beyond the Security Wall.
It is of these Palestinians, deprived of education, heath care, markets, holy sites, and even their historical, logical and legitimate capital, that the world demands the renunciation all armed resistance. But the world has not understood that a needed generalized rational spirit to permeate through Palestinian society cannot emerge due to the inherent desperation of living in the knowledge of death foretold –the slow and inexorable death of a dream for a viable state.
Marius Campean, PhD, Political Science at EHESS (Paris) and McGill (Montréal), is in training in Ramallah with the Canadian International Development Agency. Jérôme Drevon is a student in International Relations at IUHEI, Geneva, Switzerland.